Tito’s Vodka has taken the adult beverage industry by storm in only two decades. If you’re not familiar, Tito’s is a brand known for their vodka that is handmade and gluten free. The company started in Austin, Texas and is now sold across the United States and in several different countries around the world. Owning 7.1% of the market share for vodka in bars and restaurants, Tito’s has been a force to be reckoned with. Their huge success is largely thanks to their marketing clever strategies.

Take a page from the book of Tito’s Handmade Vodka and learn how you can apply their strategies to your marketing plan!

1. Word of Mouth Works

titosvodka.com

Tito’s Vodka had a humble beginning. Founder Bert Beveridge began making his vodka by hand in his kitchen. Wherever he would go, he’d take a bottle with him! He made drinks for his friends, gave bottles away as Christmas presents or for charity and local events, and people began to take notice.

By going out and just letting people try his vodka, word quickly spread about the product. Beveridge was able to make relationships with his customers that would then go out and tell their friends about it, and to this day, Tito’s has never said “no” to participating in charity events.

What started as a 16-gallon pot still is now a 26-acre plant that produces hundreds of thousands of cases every year!

How You Can Apply It:

Any business can benefit from word of mouth. An easy way for smaller brands to utilize this strategy is to use ambassadors! Let a select few people try out your products and ask them to share their experiences on their social media. This can extend your reach and gather more interest in what you have to offer.  

Did You Know? Founder Bert Beveridge’s full first name is Bertito. His friends called him “Tito,” which was the inspiration behind the company’s name!

2. Create an Emotional Connection

If you look at the label on a Tito’s bottle, you’ll notice it has orange-colored accents. This color choice was purposeful because orange is the color of the University of Texas, and Tito’s is made in Austin. Early on, this helped Beveridge sell his bottles to the tens of thousands of fans who loved having a drink that supported their team.

As Tito’s grew and became a nationwide liquor, the brand started “Vodka for Dog People,” a program with the mission to “unite with our friends, fans and partners to better the lives of pets and their families far and wide.” Tito’s also works with Emancipet, an organization that helps make veterinary care accessible to all pet owners. In 2016 alone, 100,000 pets were given affordable care thanks to their efforts.

Anyone can donate to help Emancipet by purchasing branded Tito’s pet accessories like leashes, collars, toys, and food bowls. Tito’s also creates events like “Yappy Hours” and “Puppy Pawties” to raise money for no-kill shelters.

How You Can Apply It:

Similar to the way Tito’s appealed to people who love their pets, you can figure out a way to add an emotional connection to your brand. Begin by choosing a cause that is important to you like going green. Donate a portion of your sales to different organizations or make your office or store environmentally friendly to make people feel good about working with you. You can also choose the colors of a certain cause to incorporate into your brand, or a slogan that will resonate with people similar to the orange on a Tito’s label.

3. Engage with Social Media Followers

In 20 years of business, Tito’s has never run a single T.V. commercial. Instead, mostly use social media to reach their customers. On Twitter, Tito’s is known for engaging with their followers by communicating directly them. In fact, 80% of their customer service queries come through social media.

The brand’s social media coordinator, Katy Gelhausen, reports that they receive at least 10 queries an hour, with Twitter being the most popular channel. Tito’s values prompt replies, with 55% of tweets being responded to within an hour. Tito’s has seen a 162.2% increase in engagement on Twitter, along with a 43.5% gain in followers. The brand attributes this to followers seeing the brand like a “friend” on social media, with only 2 team members in charge of responding and posting content. Tito’s uses a software called “Smart Inbox” that streamlines all of the messages and mentions the brand receives into one feed. They use this feed to make sure no message gets left unseen!

How You Can Apply It:

Businesses can no longer afford to not use social media. If your brand doesn’t have social accounts, create them! Don’t just let your accounts sit dormant, be active to gain more followers and post shareable content. When you receive messages, always answer them quickly and with a friendly tone. You might even consider hiring a team to just keep up with your social media accounts.

Fun Fact: The founder of Tito’s last name is Beveridge. It seems only fitting that he created an adult beverage company!

4. Set Yourself Apart

Tito’s has taken the path less traveled to set themselves apart in a market flooded with competition. All aspects of the brand make it unique compared to the other (much larger) vodka companies, starting with how it is manufactured. The brand has been handmade in old-fashioned pot stills since inception, but critics have challenged these claims in court for false advertising. Founder Bert Beveridge claims, “If someone tells me my brand isn’t a craft-distilled spirit because it’s too big, I just say, ‘I make it the same way I’ve always made it. I just have a lot more stills.”

The vodka is also priced cheaper than its premium competitors. There is only one variety of the vodka, and the brand avoids jumping in on trends like adding flavors or creating a line of hard seltzers. Since 2015, Tito’s has increased sales by over 4 million cases of its liquor in the U.S. One case is six 1.75L bottles of liquor, and costs around $200…you do the math!

Tito’s also made headlines in March of 2020 when they announced they’d be making 24 tons of hand sanitizer to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. This was a wise move that not only helped people across the country, but it also reinforced their brand!

VP of brand marketing Nicole Portwood stated that, “As people began to look for American-made brands, they wanted to know the stories behind the brands they were aligning with.” This is exactly the niche Tito’s has filled with its customers.

How You Can Apply It:

Think about what your competitors are doing and how you can do things differently. Is there something special about your products or employees? Figure out what you have to offer that your competition doesn’t and capitalize on it. Creating an “About Us” page on your website can help spread your story, too.

5. Use Out-Of-Home Tactics

Out-of-home tactics focuses on marketing to customers outside of their homes, more specifically in public places. An out-of-home marketing strategy was implemented by Tito’s Vodka six years ago. The point of this strategy was to increase brand visibility in newer markets. The brand commonly uses billboards in conjunction with radio ads for both audio and visual storytelling.

For the 2017 Super Bowl, Tito’s wrapped trains across the city heading toward U.S. Bank Stadium and had a billboard right outside the stadium as well. Tito’s also sponsors concerts, festivals, and events where they give out branded swag to fans and attendees. Among the most popular items are koozies, sunglasses, fanny packs, and bandanas.

One look at their sponsorship calendar and you’ll see a diverse list of events, from music foundations and fishing tournaments to 5k’s and humane associations!

How You Can Apply It:

Not all marketing can (or should) be done behind a computer or over the phone. Make your brand visible to people who might not have heard of your company before by sponsoring events, making donations, or by collaborating with other brands.

Why Does Everyone Love Tito’s Vodka?

Everyone loves Tito’s because they are a fun brand that knows their audience. Tito’s philosophy is: “We make great vodka, and if you want to come hang out with us, you’re invited!” Their inclusivity is apparent in everything from the price of their product to their engagement on social media.

Here are just a few reasons why people love Tito’s:

  • The company loves dogs (who doesn’t)
  • Made in the USA
  • They provide easy recipes for great-tasting drinks
  • It’s gluten free
  • They support non-profits across the country

Need I say more? Tito’s values its product, its employees, and you as their consumer. Everything they do shows that they have what it takes to continue to grow and thrive!

Tito’s Handmade Vodka sets a new standard for adult beverage companies. Their unique strategies have allowed them to go from a one-man operation to a household name. Their outlook on branding gives them an edge over other companies, which is something anyone can learn from! Decide how you can give your brand the leg up it needs to reach the next level of success.

Resources

The Bark. (2017, September). Spirited Giving. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://thebark.com/content/spirited-giving

Titos. (2020). Love, Tito’s. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://www.titosvodka.com/dogs/

Wright, Ted. (2019, April 22). A favorite word of mouth marketing case study: Tito’s handmade vodka. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://fizzcorp.com/a-favorite-word-of-mouth-marketing-case-study-titos-handmade-vodka/

Dua, Tanya. (2016, October 14). How Tito’s responds to ‘hundreds’ of social media mentions a day. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://digiday.com/careers/titos-responds-half-tweets-within-hour/

Cuttica, Patrick. 3 Ways Tito’s Handmade Vodka Increased Its Social Audience by 55%. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/3-ways-titos-handmade-vodka-increased-its-social-audience-55

Shaken News Daily. (2019, April 11). While Tito’s Leads The Vodka Growth Parade, Other Brands Are Also In Expansion Mode. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://www.shankennewsdaily.com/index.php/2019/04/11/22842/while-titos-leads-the-vodka-growth-parade-other-brands-are-also-in-expansion-mode/

Casserly, Meghan. (2013, July 15). The Troubling Success Of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2013/06/26/haunted-spirits-the-troubling-success-of-titos-handmade-vodka/#71d8a86412c9

Board, Bill. (2018, April 7). Tito’s Handmade Vodka VP Brand Marketing Speaking At 2018 OOH Conference. Retrieved on January 15, 2020, from https://oohtoday.com/titos-handmade-vodka-vp-brand-marketing-speaks-at-go2018/

About the author

Gianna Petan

Gianna is no stranger to all things promo products. Her background in research-based writing, linguistics, and advertising gives her an edge in blogging about the marketing industry.